Baby and Constipation: What You Need to Know

In older babies, constipation generally occurs when the muscles at the end of the large intestine tighten, preventing the stool from leaving the body. The longer the stool stays inside, the firmer and drier it becomes, making it even more difficult to pass without pain. Then, because the bowel movement is painful, your baby might try to hold it in, making the problem even worse.

Become familiar with your child’s normal bowel patterns. Make note of the usual size and consistency of the stools. This will help you and your doctor determine whether constipation is present and how severe it is.

Signs of Constipation in Babies

  • Stools that are either large, hard and compact, or small and pellet-like.
  • Bowel movements that are painful and associated with excessive straining, grunting and pain.
  • Blood on the outside of the stools, often associated with a small tear on the outside of the rectum. This tear can cause pain and withholding, which worsens the constipation.
  • Soiling (liquid waste leakage) between bowel movements.

Constipation among older babies is rarely a cause for serious medical concern. You should call your pediatrician, however, if your baby has gone more than three days without a bowel movement, is experiencing severe pain, or has experienced steady pain for more than two hours.

What Causes Constipation in Babies?

The most common causes of constipation in babies over 6 months of age include:

  • Low fiber diet or a recent change in the diet
  • Introduction of solid foods or new foods
  • Excessive amounts of yogurt, cheese and milk
  • Foods such as bananas, applesauce, cereals, breads, pasta and white potatoes can cause constipation or worsen it

Baby Constipation Relief

It is important at a young age to establish healthy eating habits, including lots of fruits, vegetables, and high fiber foods. You can also increase your baby’s daily water intake to help relieve constipation. Also, try introducing high-fiber vegetables and fruits in juice or pureed forms, especially pears, prunes, peaches, apricots, plums, raisins, peas, beans, and broccoli, as well as whole grain cereals like barley or oatmeal instead of rice.

How to Prevent Constipation in Babies

In order to prevent constipation in babies, it is important to recognize the symptoms early. Otherwise, your baby will have painful stools and will begin withholding, only making the constipation worse.

Once your child is ready to be toilet trained, be sure that it is not forced, or this can only worsen constipation. It is helpful to have a regular toilet schedule for older children, such as visiting the potty after every meal until the problem is resolved.

Related Baby Care Articles